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US approves $1B arms sale to Nigeria despite rights concerns

US approves $1B arms sale to Nigeria despite rights concerns
US-made AH-64E Apache attack helicopters fly in formation during the annual Han Kuang military drills in Taichung on July 16, 2020. The five-day "Han Kuang" (Han Glory) milita   -  
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SAM YEH/AFP or licensors


The Biden administration has given approval for Nigeria to buy advanced attack helicopters worth nearly $1 billion despite concerns about the country's human rights record.

Nigeria is battling a series of threats from criminal gangs and extremists in the north.

The State Department on Thursday announced the approval of the $997 million sales of 24 Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters and related equipment to Nigeria. The related equipment includes guidance, night vision and targeting systems as well as engines and training support, the department said in a notice to Congress.

The sale was initiated after Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a visit to Nigeria in November last year.

Blinken also made clear the United States' regard for Nigeria as a partner in combating terrorism and Islamic extremism in West Africa and the Sahel.

"This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a strategic partner in Sub-Saharan Africa," the department told Congress.

The deal is also intended to "better equip Nigeria to contribute to shared security objectives, promote regional stability, build interoperability with the U.S. and other Western partners, and will be a major contribution to U.S. and Nigerian security goals," the notice reads.

Nigeria's security forces have long been accused of human rights violations in their operations, with personnel involved often escaping justice.

In October 2020, the army opened fire at a demonstration in the country's economic hub where hundreds were protesting against police brutality, killing 11 people and injuring many others, according to a government-backed panel.

During Blinken's visit in November, he said the U.S. was looking forward to seeing the full results of the investigation and would make a decision on arms sales to Nigeria based in part on the findings and whether those responsible were held accountable.

Nigeria is also facing a growing threat from armed gangs and extremist rebels who are now working together in the country's troubled northwest and threaten to further destabilize an already volatile region.

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